21 December 2011

Kalicious Smoothie

First off, I'm sorry I've been off the grid lately. It's a combination of laziness and running around like mad these past few weeks. When I look at my schedule I'm not that busy, but I am. It's just not logical.

Second, I have good news to report! As of last night, Grandma Ruth was taken off the ventilator and is breathing on her own and very very unhappy to have to sit in a hospital bed. My father-in-law reports that she's literally kicking to get out of bed, but still has a lot of resting to do. Thank you all so much for your thoughts and prayers yesterday. So many people here and on Facebook were diligently lifting her up and the Lord has heard our prayer as she was not expected to survive while off the ventilator there for a while.

Now onward, to a delicious smoothie recipe! You may remember the Kalicious smoothie we got when we went to Whole Foods a few weekends ago. Well, I search high and low online and couldn't find it on their site, so I made up a recipe of my own based on what we had, and voila!  I'm here so share it with you today.  But first some promises...

1) It's delicious and detoxifying. I'm not going to elaborate on how I know the latter. But I know it. Period.

2) You won't taste the spinach and kale, scouts honor.

3) You will never age as long as you drink this smoothie.

(Ok, that last one was a stretch...)

As it is, the smoothie is really great for you. Kale and spinach are both leafy greens high in vitamin K, A, and C. Along with other goodies like protien, calcium, iron, and B6.

To add a little boost to my smoothies, I also add GSE and chia seed. I put GSE in every smoothie I make. On it's own, it's one of the most disgusting tastes you have ever tasted. It's only saving grace is that the taste doesn't linger in your mouth once you swallow. But in a smoothie you can't taste it at all. GSE is Grapefruit Seed Extract and it is a nutribiotic. Basically it's properties naturally fight against bad bacteria and viruses in your gut that could cause you to get sick.

Chia is a seed high in omegas with moderate amounts of protien. A good additive if you are vegetarian or vegan to help get those omegas in your diet.

The Kalicious Smoothie
serves 2

1.5 cups apple juice
1 lemon, juiced
2 bananas
1 cup spinach
1 cup kale (middle vein removed, it's bitter...)
5-6 ice cubes

30 drops GSE
1/2 tsp chia (up your liquid by 1/4 cup if you add chia...it absorbs TONS of water).

Place everything in a blender, and blend on high until smooth and frothy! Enjoy!

Question of the Day:
What's your favorite smoothie recipe?

20 December 2011


Please keep my husband's grandma and our family in your prayers. Grandma Ruth  is in the ICU and has extensive damage to her arteries in her lungs and a hole in her heart. She cannot breathe without the ventilator. The family is having to make difficult decisions about life support and such. It is a difficult time. Please pray for comfort and peace. Grandma Ruth is a Christ follower...and we can rest in that.

16 December 2011

I Work For The Big Man

Last night I was up till the wee hours of the night (10:45!!) working diligently for Santa. I had quite a task at hand when he handed me my co-workers Christmas list. Three batches of different cookies all pretty-fied in baggies and topped off with string...I was going to be up to my eyeballs in flour!

I told Santa that I really appreciated him making me an honorary elf and I asked if I could come stay up at his place for a while, just to see their kitchen in action and get a few pointers. He said he'll think about it depending on how I do with next year's list. He says it's a hefty one.

North Pole vacation or not, I got to work on my cookies. I made chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, cinnamon sugar cookies, and some pecan sandies dipped in white and red sugars. A feast for the eyes (and the mouth)! Right before bed I wrapped up 13 baggies and 2 large plates in preparation for the morning.

Santa said I could deliver them all by myself tomorrow...and if you ask me that's better than any tour of the North Pole kitchen...

Question of the Day:

What goodies are you cooking up for Christmas?

15 December 2011

A Christmas Comic

Hey folks,

I was surfing around the 'ole webby debbie the other day and stumbled upon a new site. If you didn't know it already (and you probably don't because it's kind of my secret obsession) I love comics. Well, I love them as long as they are well-written, witty, and poke fun at life. I think that's supposed to be the definition of a comic, but it's amazing how many fall so short.

Anyways, some of my favorite places to go to for a laugh are Hyperbole and a Half, Toothpaste for Dinner, Verbal Vomit, and now, The Oatmeal. I can get lost for hours and hours on these sites. Check out this Christmas comic from The Oatmeal and have a happy Christmas laugh!

13 December 2011

A Traditional Iranian Breakfast

Good morning!

I mentioned yesterday that we went over to our friend Ali's home on Saturday morning for breakfast. Ali wanted to share a traditional homemade bread with us and show us how a good breakfast is done...Iranian style!

To be honest, I wasn't sure what to expect. I knew there was going to be bread, but that was about it. I was pleasantly surprised to find a delicious meal, and even more good friends- Navid and his wife Zhoobin!

By day (and sometimes night) Ali studies for his PhD in engineering from UCF. But when he has some time off Ali transforms into a master chef, cooking up some amazing meals! So far he has made us two other traditional meals and both were to die for!

Ali grew up in a family of women, and didn't learn how to cook until he moved to the US to study and had to fend for himself. I think it's done him well, and his mother and sisters would be shocked that he's such a professional!

This Iranian Barbari bread is made by hand. It is a wheat yeast bread and is sprinkled with sesame seeds for cooking. When you break off pieces to eat you can split the bread open (kind of like a thick pita) and fill it with goodies.

Traditionally, you fill it with Tabriz cheese... it's like a feta but much fresher tasting. (You can see the cheese above in the top left corner of the table.) Some other fillings were fresh butter, raspberry jam, and cream cheese. It was so tasty and I could have easily eaten a whole loaf.

Of course, no breakfast (or any meal for that matter) would be complete without cup after cup of Persian hot tea. It has become my favorite tea to drink and the spices warm and relax you as you sip. (I will have a Persian tea tutorial soon, just waiting to purchase one more bit of appliance to make it the real deal.)

From left to right: Navid, Zhoobin, Hannah, John, and Ali.

We had such a great time talking. We caught up on the last couple months of our lives, discussed languages and cultures and Iranian cuisine. Ali and Navid are both engineers (electrical and mechanical, respectively) and Zhoobin is an M.D. Many times I think John and I just sit there, trying out hardest to soak up their intelligence. It is always a delight to be in their presence and enjoy the mixing of our cultures.

There are many things I love in life, but nothing brings me more joy than sharing a meal with people so much different than myself, yet so much the same. Our governments tell us that we are enemies, that we should hate each other, and that we might one day be at war. But there we were, five people sitting in a room, sharing a meal, and laughing about the absurdity of it all with the knowledge that loving others and enjoying peace is as simple as pouring a cup of tea.

Question of the Day:
What's your favorite traditional breakfast from your travels?

12 December 2011

A (Not Quite) Weekend Update

Hey Folks-

It's Monday. (Booo!) And not only that....it's raining. I'm not a happy camper. I like to start my week out with crisp weather, sun streaming in my window, with my "good morning!" smoothie in my hand. While I did have a smoothie in my hand this morning, I also had an umbrella. The two cancel each other out as far as I'm concerned. 

I've been a really bad blogger this weekend. I didn't take a single picture! Here's some of what we did:

1. Friday night we had a Harry Potter 7, part 2 dinner party with friends. It involved sangria and vegan rum cake. We were all very delighted.

2. Saturday morning with Iranian friends. Our friend Ali made a traditional Iranian breakfast of a bread called Barbari and cheese and jam. I'll be doing a post this week on it. Here's what the bread looks like...


3. Saturday day we got all our Christmas shopping done.

4. Saturday night we went to an "O Christmas Plant" party for plant-based food enthusiasts. Showed up knowing only the hosts but left with many new friends.

5. A great service at church Sunday morning about what it really means to "go home" and where our home really is for believers...in Heaven. I needed that reminder!

6. Sunday day, a lovely lunch with two of our financial supporters catching up on the past few weeks and getting to know them better.

Question of the Day:
How do you do in a crowded room of strangers? Is it exhilarating, or intimidating?

09 December 2011

Friday Replay: Cross-Cultural Etiquette- Preparing a Meal

It's Friday Replay time again! Friday Replay is where I get a chance to replay some of the posts that I wrote back when the only people reading were my mother and husband. I chose this particular replay because of the Christmas season. Many of you may be hosting new friends, opening your home to students who have no families in town, or maybe a relative is bringing a significant other home for the first time. There's a chance (hopefully a good one!) that these people could be internationals living in the U.S. for such and such a reason. This post is a guide on how to prepare a meal for those with dietary restrictions unlike your own due to their culture or religion.


When preparing to have international friends over to your home for a meal there are a few things to think of.  If you are unsure of their dietary restrictions it is completely fine to ask them in advance. Even though the following tips may give a general outline, there are always exceptions to the rule. I’ve met Muslims who, while living in America, have decided to eat pork. And I’ve met Hindus who eat meat.  I guess the biggest lesson is to never assume. :-/

If Your Guests Are…

As a general rule our Muslim friends will refrain from pork products and other meats that are not certified Halal. Also, alcohol is prohibited. When it comes to alcohol I always assume. Even if I’ve been offered alcohol while in their home, I will not offer it in mine out of respect for their faith.

A word on “halal.” I used to think that as long as a meal was pork-free it was halal. This is not so. Think of it as you would “kosher”. All kosher foods must be certified as such and in the same way halal foods must be certified. To be halal the animal must be blessed and killed according to that custom. Some Muslims will eat food as long as there is no pork and others will only eat meat that is halal. If your guest makes a point to tell you they only eat halal meat, run to your nearest international grocery or halal market for meat. In most cases meats that are certified kosher will also suffice if you live in a place without much diversity at the market.

 In Arab/Persian culture coffee and tea can play a big role for the night. If you have learned how to make a good Turkish coffee or yummy tea that can be a great end to a dinner. But keep in mind that little quirks can exist throughout Arab/Persian areas in regards to these beverages. In Jordan, for example, serving coffee can be a sign you want someone to leave. In Kazakhstan filling a tea glass to full may mean you want them to gulp it down and leave, whereas a half glass will let them know you want them to stay for refills. There’s no way to know all these things, and you shouldn’t feel bad about not knowing. But once you ask questions and learn these little things about other cultures it will allow you to be more hospitable in a way they will most fully understand.


Many Hindus and most all Buddhists are vegetarians, with some Hindus just avoiding beef. Although your family may be die hard meat lovers it would be my recommendation that while having Hindus or Buddhist vegetarians over for dinner you choose to go all out with your beans and veggies. Cooking meat for yourself may be disrespectful, and the smell may make your friends lose their appetite. Alcohol is also prohibited.

That covers the three most common religions and their restrictions. Most others have very little restriction, and if you are unsure just be sure to ask them.

John and I with our Persian friends last Christmas.
Other things to consider…

1) Our Muslim friends fast one month out of the year during Ramadan. This means the will refrain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset. This month may not be a good time to invite them over for dinner as they usually observe the breaking of the fast with family and fellow Muslims. However, if you do want to invite and they accept be sure to have them over after sunset and serve dinner soon after.

2) I’ve noticed that my friends from China have a very low tolerance to sweets. When thinking of desserts and beverages to offer be sure to choose something more mild.

3) Another thing to consider is what to cook for friends fresh off the plane. If your international friends have arrived in the US in the last week or two be very considerate of the fact that our typical American diet may be throwing them for loops. Try to lay off on the high dairy foods, high fat foods, and anything deep fried.

4) Make more than enough food.

5) Make more than enough food.

6) MAKE MORE THAN ENOUGH FOOD. In most other cultures having plenty for seconds and thirds is just good hospitality.

07 December 2011

A Tree Full of Memories

Good morning! Did everyone sleep well?

Today, I'm continuing the Christmas tree conversation over at Happily Ever Healthy. Hilliary was kind enough to let me spread some Christmas cheer to her dearest readers, so please go check out her blog today to read about my favorite Christmas ornaments and the stories behind them.

See you over here

06 December 2011

O Christmas Tree

I'm delighted to share with you our 2nd annual Christmas tree lighting! John and I both grew up with fake trees and now that we are big kids and can make our own Christmas tree decisions we've started buying them fresh. Just a few extra dollars, but a whole lot of difference it makes! We love walking into the house and smelling the evergreen, and getting wafts of it up the stairs when we wake up in the morning.

It's a very smelly douglass fir!

We have ornaments from our childhood all packed around it. I have ones that family friends handmade me when I was just a baby, ones from my travels, and the ones given to me as a gift every Christmas growing up. John has some of the same, but also some special ones from his mom who passed away when he was just nine years old. Those are the most special ones on our tree! They are all teacher themed as she taught elementary school when she was living.

We love going through all our ornaments and retelling the same old stories we told the year before. It helps us remember all the great people in our lives, the people who got us to wear we are, and the memories we'll be able to tell in the future as we grow older and older together as a couple.

Question of the Day:
What's your most special Christmas tree ornament?

My favorite is a beautiful cherub ornament that my grandpa bought for my mother one year when we traveled to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. It's one of the only things I have related to him, and he passed away on my 9th birthday. 

05 December 2011

Weekend Update| December 5, 2011

Good morning everyone! Did you have a fabulous weekend? We sure did! My mom and step-dad came up for a visit and we had such a great time. The weather couldn't have been better for the activities we had planned, either. The mornings were really cool but by mid-day the sun was out and we were enjoying temperatures in the mid 70's!

They drove in Friday night and we enjoyed some dinner I had prepared. We played a couple rounds of rummy and I was destroyed at the last minute by David (step-dad). That hurt as I have been the reigning champ in our house lately. John was overjoyed at my loss. ;)

Saturday morning we got up and ran around the neighborhood together. We are all running a 5k in Melbourne (FL) in February, so it was fun to do a little training together. My family is fast! They've got quite a few years on me and still managed 12 minute miles! I discovered that I run much faster on land than on the "dreadmill", is that the same for you?

After the run we made breakfast and packed up a picnic for our day out. My parents just got a new D-SLR so we took them out to Lake Eola to practice shooting with it. They got some really great shots! Everyone and their brother was out at the lake, putting up Christmas decorations and running around the trail. Above is a picture John took of my mom and I. Below is a picture that my mom took of us. She's getting the hang of it!

 I think she really captured our love... :)

Our next stop was going to be Whole Foods for a little stocking up on the grain wall. (My parents don't have a Whole Foods in their town, so it's a ritual when they come up.) We made one last stop at the ice cream truck before we left the lake, but came away empty handed as the ice cream was way over-priced and wouldn't have done our tummies any good...we all have the same whole foods, mostly veg diet. Nonetheless, we were sad about our loss...

David had quite the smile though, he must have looked into the future to see what would happen when we went to Whole Foods. We came away with two ah-mazing smoothies! They got a PB&J fruit smoothie (almond milk, berries, peanut butter, bananas, etc.) and we got the Kalicious smoothie (kale, spinach, bananas, apple juice, lemons). Our smoothie was so good I drank it in 30 minutes. And just to give you a comparison, it usually takes me 3 hours to finish my smoothies in the morning.

I was in love!

We finished our evening with a trip to Bass Pro Outdoor World and then came home and chowed down on homemade butternut squash soup, red onion and tomato paninis, and an assortment of goodies picked up at the hot counter at Whole Foods.

I spent the evening stressing over a final group project for my online Strategies in Teaching ESOL class. Praise the Lord we finally got everything done (last minute) and were able to turn it in last night for a grade. I can't tell you how ready I was to be done with this class! I need a break!

Sunday we went to church and hung out around the house for a while playing with out pictures and teaching my mom and David to edit photos with Gimp 2. It was a nice, relaxing day before the craziness of this weeks started up again.

Something tells me this week will be a little more than I can handle.

Question of the Day:
What kinds of things do you do with your parents?

02 December 2011

Down on the Farm

An overview of one of my grandparent's hills...note the patch of Christmas trees there.

Home, home on the range. Where the deer and the groundhogs play! Where often is heard a pro-ofain word, and the men go out hunting all day!

Good morning everyone, and happy Friday to you! I'll have you know that I spent a whole hour getting these pictures ready to show you. Man, do I love you guys or what? I practically missed two whole episodes of Arrested Development to make it happen.

I'm really excited to share them and a piece of my family. So sit back, relax, and get to scrolling...

Me and the hill of trees behind the house.

The red barn...full of Christmas goodies, and antiques from God knows when...there's even an old horse-drawn sleigh that my great-grandfather used to use!

The white barn and a truck we affectionately call "the beast." Inside is tractor equipment and severed deer heads.

The house. My grandmother grew up with her family here since age 6. And she's lived there until now! It's 4 floors, excellent for manhunt, and is full of cubbyholes and corners with creepy dolls and other old stuff. The basement and 4th floor attic were terrifying to me when I was young (and even a little now...).

This is my great-great-grandfather and mother's grave. Gust J. Madera 1. There are now 5 Gust Madera's (My brother is the 5th.) Gust the first died in a coal mining accident there in Pennsylvania and was an immigrant from (we think) Czechoslovakia.

My dad sighting in his rifle for buck season.

John shooting, doesn't he look like a professional?

John LOOKS like a professional, I REALLY AM ONE. ; )

Helping my cousin make a wreath. I'm not a professional at this...but with Chris' help, I did alright!

This is me in my Dad's hunting gear. Can you see me? If you look into my eyes you can see that I am so seriously ghetto. Don't look at me wrong or I will mess you up!

That's my little tour around the farm and some pictures of the fun things we did. We can't wait to go back, hopefully when it is snowing so we can get some great winter shots. It's so beautiful in the winter when the snow is hanging on all the trees and the barn is standing tall and stark against the blanket beneath it. You must see it! 

Have a great weekend everyone, and see you Monday!

Question of the Day:
Is your family attached to a particular town or piece of land?

01 December 2011

Baby, It's Cold Outside


It's December which means I can officially wish you all a Merry Christmas! I woke up this morning to temperatures of 47 degrees! Not bad for Orlando, Florida. It looks like Father Christmas has come early and he's piling on the Christmas spirit here in sunny o-town.

I love the cold down here (we only get a month of so of it), but now that I'm running that means I'm freezing my little patootie off in running shorts. Over the Thanksgiving holiday my aunt gave me an early Christmas present- a giftcard to Kohl's. As luck would have it, I already had my eye on something and snatched it up as soon as we got back into town...

FILA Running Tights

I got them for a good deal, too! When I went to the gym on my lunch break the other day I thought I would try them out. Hey, it was cold outside, so it was a good excuse! Note to self- just because it is cold outside does not mean that it will be cold in the gym. I was sweating up a storm! Lesson learned.

Anyways, since it's Christmas time, I thought I would share some other items on my "want" list for Santa this year. And if someone wants to secretly send this link to my husband, too, I wouldn't complain. ; )

Great for running in the dark! Women's Tri-Viz LED Running Hat

Nike Women's Storm Fly Jacket

FILA Running Shorts

A few more pairs of Thorlo Experia CoolMax Socks

Vibrams Five Fingers

iPod Nano Watch! (Keeps pace, miles, and music!)